15 Best sunscreens for under makeup, tried and tested: I tried the best SPFs for when you're wearing a full face | The Sun

WEARING sunscreen all year around is the single best thing you can do to prevent the signs of ageing, as well as skin cancer.

Wearing makeup containing SPF doesn't ensure total protection against the rays, which is why using one of the best sunscreens for under makeup is a necessary step in your morning routine.

With UVA and UVB rays getting stronger every year, finding a good sunscreen that will protect your skin from premature ageing, dark spots, pigmentation and, of course, skin cancer has never been more important.

Summer might be in full swing now, but a generous amount of sunscreen should be the last step of your morning routine every day of the year, rain or shine.

Thankfully, most modern sunscreens are formulated with this in mind and it has become reasonably easy to find sun care products that are highly protective and work for our skin, no matter your budget.

Long gone are the days we had to experience a greasy T-zone, white cast or product pilling only a few hours after application. Sunscreen is now an additional layer of skincare, acting like a perfect base for makeup.

After a lot of testing, we've found the best sunscreens for under makeup, for all budgets and needs.

The best sunscreens for under makeup, at a glance

  • Best overall: Trinny London See The Light Broad Spectrum Moisturiser SPF 50+
  • Best for sensitive skin: Saltee City Serum SPF+
  • Best premium option: Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect
  • Best spray: Sculpted by Aimee Sun Mist SPF 50 Spray
  • Best affordable option: Beauty Bay SPF 50 UVA/UVB Face Lotion

Trinny London See The Light Broad Spectrum Moisturiser SPF 50+

  • See The Light SPF 50+ Moisturiser, £45 from Trinny London – buy here

Pros: Lovely scent, SPF 50+ UVA/UVB, PA++++, quick absorption, invisible finish, doesn't pill
Cons: None
Rating: 5/5

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Trinny gets the gold medal from me. This moisturiser has quickly become my favourite sunscreen, and the fact that it looks fabulous under makeup is only one of the reasons why I will be repurchasing it over and over again.

This is also the best-smelling sunscreen I have ever used, which is a nice addition to a great formula.

This is a two-in-one moisturiser and sunscreen that protects the skin from the rays while smoothing fine lines and improving complexion. The texture is silky and the product sinks into the skin seamlessly, leaving a matte finish and highly hydrated skin, ready for makeup.

There's no white cast, greasy t-zone or pill in sight, even under heavy makeup. 

Medik8 Advanced Day Ultimate Protect 

  • Advanced Day Ultimate Protect, £59 from Medik8 – buy here

Pros: Broad spectrum SPF 50+ UVA/UVB, PA++++, age-defying ingredients, quick absorption, invisible finish, doesn't pill

This new Medik8 formula is one of the best sunscreens I have ever used.

It has a very light texture that melts into the skin for a seamless finish, and you can tell that your skin is plumped and protected.

This sunscreen also works against blue light and pollution while being packed with DNA Repair Enzymes that promise to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Used under makeup, it acts as a great moisturising base that hydrates the skin without being greasy. After using it for a couple of days, I was sold.

The only fault I can find in this marvellous product is the price; at £59 per 50ml, this is a premium product with a premium price tag.


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Saltee City Serum SPF+

  • City Serum SPF 50, £38 from Saltee – buy here

Pros: UVA + UVB SPF 50 broad spectrum protection, sensitive skin friendly, quick absorption, invisible finish, light scent, doesn't pill, vegan-friendly

Saltee is a British brand beloved by beauty editors and celebrities (including Oprah), so I had high expectations for its city serum.

This product contains black ginger extract to counteract photodamage and boost skin cell regeneration, while Nordic pine bark fights hyper-pigmentation, all while providing enough hydration to the skin to look healthy and glowy.

It's excellent for sensitive skin, absorbs immediately and makes a very good base for makeup. It's a fabulous option as an everyday sunscreen to use alone or after a day cream on days when you might need extra hydration.

Sculpted by Aimee Sun Mist SPF 50 Spray

  • Sun Mist SPF 50 Spray, £22 from Sculpted by Aimee – buy here

Pros: Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA/UVB, PA++++, great to reapply over makeup throughout the day, easy to carry around
Cons: Quite a strong sweet scent, difficult to know how much to apply
Rating: 4/5

I'm very sensitive to strong smells, so the sweet apricot scent of this Sculpted by Aimee sun mist is a bit too overwhelming for me, but it's perfect for those who like perfumes with fruity notes.

The mist doubles up as a light scent to reapply during the day on your face, neck and any other exposed part of the body.

The sunscreen being a mist means that it's quite tricky to make sure you have put an adequate amount on before makeup, but this product is perfect for top-ups during the day.

I would suggest using a cream sunscreen before makeup to ensure total protection and choosing this mist to use on top of makeup whenever you feel that you need additional protection or every two hours if you are exposed to the sun.

Paula's Choice Advanced Sun Protection Daily Moisturiser

  • Advanced Sun Protection Daily Moisturiser, £39 from Paula's Choice – buy here

Pros: Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA/UVB, PA++++, with added antioxidants, invisible finish, doesn't peel
Cons: Takes a couple of minutes to sink into the skin, not suitable for oily skin
Rating: 4/5

We all love Paula's Choice for its incredible exfoliator, but the brand's sun products are just as good.

This daily moisturiser is rich and hydrating, so it does take a few minutes to be completely absorbed by the skin. That means it's not the best option if you're often in a hurry, but an excellent product for dry skin or to wear under makeup during the winter months. 

The texture and finish of the product mean that this particular sunscreen is not a good base to wear under makeup if you have combination or oily skin. After a few hours, your skin will look slightly greasy and shiny, so there are better options on the market for this skin type. If you have dry skin, though, this one is for you.

Beauty Bay SPF 50 UVA/UVB Face Lotion

  • SPF 50 UVA/UVB Face Lotion, £9 from Beauty Bay – buy here

Pros: Lightweight formula, SPF 50 UVA/UVB, compact packaging that's easy to carry around, invisible finish, doesn't pill, budget-friendly
Cons: None
Rating: 5/5

This Beauty Bay SPF 50 face lotion has it all.

The texture is milky, the formula is very lightweight and easy to apply while giving total protection, and the packaging is small, light and very easy to carry around for top-ups, which is a big plus for me.

Considering this is also a budget-friendly option, I'd say Beauty Bay really delivered on this particular product. The application is seamless, with an invisible finish that is undetectable under makeup.

Even after a whole day out and about in the summer heat, my foundation didn't budge and my face never felt greasy.

Olivanna London SPF 50 Sun Defence Drops

  • Olivanna London SPF 50 Sun Defence Drops, £56 from Feel Unique – buy here

Pro: SPF 50 UVA/UVB, quick absorption, invisible finish, doesn't pill
Cons: The dropper is messy, glass bottle makes carrying the product around difficult
Rating: 3/5

There is no denying the quality of this Olivanna sunscreen formula; the smooth and hydrating cream melts into skin almost immediately, the finish is invisible and it's a great pill-fee base for makeup.

The downside for me was the packaging, which is a real shame considering the product's value.

The texture is too creamy for the dropper, which results in easy spillage and waste of product, making it quite an unpractical sunscreen for daily use.

Its packaging is sleek and feels luxurious, but the glass bottle and prone-to-spillage dropper mean that this is not an easy product to slide into your bag for further applications during the day. 

Emma Hardie Protect & Prime SPF 30

  • Emma Hardie Protect & Prime SPF30, £46 from Space NK – buy here

Pros: Very quick absorption, lightweight, invisible finish, doesn't pill, vegan-friendly
Cons: SPF 30 instead of 50
Rating: 4/5

This lightweight, hydrating, multitasking product is formulated to elevate your makeup while protecting your skin from premature ageing.

The Mongongo Oil, Oat Extract and Vitamin E shield and nourish the skin while the light diffusing formulation creates a buffing effect with a luminous finish.

Thanks to the excellent formula and the lovely packaging, this primer feels luxurious to use and is a fabulous addition to any makeup routine for protection but also for added glow and buffing effect.

In the summer, pair this with a lightweight SPF 50 like the Skinmade Protect & Care Sun Oil (below) for extra protection.

Bioré UV Weightless Moisturiser High Protection

  • Bioré UV Weightless Moisturiser High Protection, £14.99 from Amazon – buy here

Pros: Fresh and summery scent, very quick absorption, lightweight, invisible finish, doesn't pill
Cons: SPF 30 instead of 50
Rating: 4/5

You have probably heard of its charcoal pore-care line – or you may have seen someone testing it on TikTok – but Japanese brand Bioré is loved in the UK thanks to its excellent, budget-friendly sun care.

At £14.99, this oil-free weightless moisturiser packed with hyaluronic acid is amazing value for money.

You can use this sunscreen after your daily moisturiser if your skin is particularly thirsty or alone if you have normal to combination skin.

The product absorbs quickly and the finish is invisible, making this formula a fresh, white cast free and pill-free base for makeup. Bonus point: the scent is fresh and summery, a true delight.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost City Shield Hydrating Lotion SPF 25

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost City Shield Hydrating Lotion SPF 25 50ml, £8.99 from Boots – buy here

Pros: Very quick absorption, lightweight, invisible finish, doesn't pill, pollution shield, small budget friendly
Cons: SPF 25 instead of 50
Rating: 3/5

This is a great option for those searching for an extremely light moisturiser that melts into the skin while providing long-lasting hydration and protection against pollution throughout the day.

The finish is sheer and non-greasy, offering a good base for makeup during the summer months (and the winter too, unless you have very dry skin). 

My only concern with this sunscreen is that it's SFP 25, which is slightly less than the SPF 30 suggested by dermatologists.

Ultimately, it depends on the level of exposure to the rays, if you are reapplying the cream regularly and your skin type, but this is a good option if you are looking for a lightweight moisturiser that also provides some sun protection. 

Olay Vitamin C + SPF 30

  • Olay Vitamin C + SPF 30, £19 from Boots – buy here

Pros: Vitamin C, quick absorption, lightweight, invisible finish, doesn't pill, anti-dark spot
Cons: SPF 30 instead of 50
Rating: 4/5

I am almost ceremonial when it comes to my skincare routine, never missing my Vitamin C serum in the morning and Retinol in the evening. But piling up products on my face becomes uncomfortable in the summer, even for me.

This Olay Vitamin C cream is perfect for the warmer months, acting like an all-in-one Vitamin C serum, moisturiser and sunscreen.

The anti dark spot protecting formula is light and refreshing, absorbs quickly and leaves the skin hydrated but not greasy.

With so much packed in one smooth cream, it's the perfect product to use on the days when you don't feel like putting anything on your skin.

Face Junkie Neroli Day Cream + Sunscreen Protect

  • Neroli Day Cream + Sunscreen Protect, £20 from Face Junkie – buy here

Pros: Quick absorption, lightweight, invisible finish, doesn't pill, vegan-friendly, nice subtle scent
Cons: SPF 20 instead of 50
Rating: 3/5

I love this day cream by Face Junkie and its subtle scent of Neroli.

The product is lightweight and absorbs quickly while leaving the skin plumped, while the texture is smooth and the finish is invisible; overall, it's a great base for makeup.

Unfortunately, the cream only has SPF 20, which is relatively low protection, especially in the summer.

Dermatologists recommend always using SPF 30 minimum, even during the winter months, so you would need to boost your sun protection either by applying an additional layer of sunscreen on top of your Face Junky Neroli Day Cream or using a foundation containing SPF.

Seventy-One Percent Feel Free Urban Feel Good Daily Fluid

  • Feel Free SPF30, £29.90 from Superdrug – buy here

Pros: Respects the ocean, quick absorption, invisible finish, doesn't pill, light and fresh scent, 1% for the planet
SPF 30 instead of 50

Seventy-One is a sunscreen brand formulated in France with surfers and the planet in mind.

Its Urban Feel Daily Fluid absorption is immediate and the finish is matte and invisible, making this perfect for everyday wear.

The daily fluid also protects against pollution and blue light and its 85% natural composition contains hyaluronic acid, prebiotics and micro-algae extract that is naturally moisturising.

This formula also uses Kannabia Sense, an innovative active ingredient that stimulates the skin microbiota and ignites the synthesis of cutaneous oxytocin, which reportedly makes your skin happy and glowy.

I don't know if my skin felt happy when I was wearing the sunscreen, but it sure looked good!

iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50+

  • iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50+, £45 from DermaCare Direct – buy here

Pros: Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA/UVB, quick absorption, invisible finish, doesn't pill
Cons: Big packaging, difficult to carry around
Rating: 5/5

Packed with zinc and Vitamin E, this sunscreen doubles up as a beauty treatment in its own right, adapted to any skin type.

The formula is lightweight for a smooth application and has total protection against UVA and UVB. The finish is sheer, matte and non-greasy, making it a great base for everyday makeup. 

The packaging is spill and waste-proof, which is important for a premium product priced at £45 for 100g.

The only downside is that, being a bit bulky, it's not the best sunscreen to carry around every day, as it wouldn't fit in a small bag. 

Skinmade Protect & Care Sun Oil

  • Skinmade Protect & Care Sun Oil, £40.50 from EF Skin – buy here

Pros: SPF 50 UVA/UVB, glowy finish, quick absorption, doesn't pill
Cons: The oil consistency and the glass bottle make it difficult to carry the product around for top-ups during the day
Rating: 5/5

I was not expecting to like oil as a makeup base as much as I did, but Skinmade's Protect & Care is now a staple in my summer morning routine.

The product is rich in antioxidants, in particular red algae, considered the most powerful antioxidant used in the beauty industry, and ceramide, which strengthens the skin barrier.

The oil contains a combination of light-sensitive filters and UVA and UVB protection, allowing for a longer-lasting shield.

It's recommended to use the oil before a moisturiser but in the summer, I prefer to only use a light hydrating serum and the oil as the last step of my beauty routine, just before makeup.

Where to buy sunscreen for under makeup

Depending on the budget, I'd suggest buying sunscreen from a pharmacy or a specialist website, but you can find products with good quality and high protection in supermarkets as well.

Some online marketplaces offer an expert consultation before your purchase, which is particularly useful if you have a skin condition or sensitive skin.

Some of the most popular stores to buy sunscreen for under makeup are:

  • Cult Beauty
  • Amazon
  • Sephora
  • Superdrug
  • Look Fantastic
  • Space NK
  • Beauty Bay
  • Boots

Do you put sunscreen on before or after makeup?

Throughout the year and especially during the summer months, when UVA and UVB rays are stronger, you should apply sunscreen both before and after makeup.

We asked Pippa Harman, a cosmetic scientist and Co-Founder and CEO of Renude, to answer this question in detail: "You should always apply your sunscreen as the final step of your skincare routine, before any makeup.

"Ideally, you would wait 20 minutes after applying your sunscreen before using any makeup to minimise the disturbance of this protective layer. 

"The British Association of Dermatologists recommend reapplying your sunscreen every 2 hours, or after sweating or swimming. So if you are wearing makeup, it is good to have a sunscreen that you can easily apply over it, so you can top up your protection throughout the day."

How to reapply sunscreen over makeup?

According to Pippa Harman: "This really depends on the formula. Many sunscreen top-up products come as sprays, which you can spritz over makeup with minimal disturbance.

"Hold the bottle 20cm or so from the skin (or as instructed), and ensure you are spraying over a generous amount in order to achieve the SPF protection level stated on the packaging. 

"There are also innovative mousse sunscreens that can be patted in on top of makeup without disturbing it. Simply add mousse to your palms, pat together a few times, and then pat into the skin over your makeup.

"Additionally, there are powder formulas like those from Colorescience and Heliocare which allow you to top up via a protective powder, which can be particularly good for oilier skins when the weather is warm."

Does makeup containing SPF work?

Yes, makeup containing SPF does offer protection but it's often not enough on its own.

Pippa Harman prefers to think of it as added protection, rather than an SPF: "Most skin-toned face makeup (of any shade) is made up of four different coloured pigments, three coloured iron oxides and titanium dioxide, which is a white mineral powder with natural UV protection that is also used in sunscreens. As this is present in most face makeup formulations, there will be an associated level of protection to the formula. 

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"That being said, we typically don't use as much makeup as we would our sunscreen, and the specific level of protection offered is based on a set amount of product used during the test, which is unlikely to be replicated through typical makeup use.

"So it's best not to rely on this as your main morning sunscreen step, but it's great as an added layer of protection."

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